Gauges and Tension

I have a TON of trouble with gauges. Specifically, I'll make a swatch and do the calculations, but the finished product is completely off. All I can figure is that I can't seem to keep an even tension. Any suggestions? I want to be able to start a sweater without worrying too much that I'll just have to rip it out halfway through.


Sometimes when a person first starts to knit of a day his tension is different than it is after he has relaxed into the process, say 10 or 15 minutes later. Why don't you start a scarf that is the first thing you knit on for those 10 or 15 minutes, then put it down and knit your gauge swatch. Then,
whenever you want to work on the sweater start with your scarf first and knit for 10 or 15 minutes, then switch to the sweater.

BuduR's picture

I had this exact problem, so now I do what Looped suggests, I knit on a scarf for 15 minutes or so and then go back to the project I want to work on. Seems to have fixed the tension problem for me.

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Asplund's picture

I often find the gauge differs too. (One reason I tend to stick to a limited number of favourite yarns - I know the gauge of the knitted garment!) The bigger the swatch is, the better - I feel fairly safe when it's some 20 cm wide.
To be on the safe side, you could start with the back and measure it after some 10 cm. If it's completely wrong, at least you won't have to rip it out halfway through! Also, don't forget you often can adjust the size quite a lot when you block the finished pieces! Good luck! Asplund

scenter's picture


Guage swatches can be different from the finished project for several reasons:

(1) the swatch is freshly knit, and the yarn hasn't relaxed into the final state yet (as mentioned by others in this post) let it sit a while before measuring.

(2) the guage swatch should be cleaned and blocked the way you expect the finished garment to be cleaned and blocked, and then measured when dry. If you treat the finished garment the same, it should match.

(3) the pattern guage was measured hung vertically, which stretches the stitches, and gives you a different guage than when measured flat. (this is refered to naturally enough as 'hung guage'). This makes sense with things like sweaters which hang vertically when worn. just hang your swatch on a corkboard, and measure it after about an hour.

(4) If you knitted your swatch on straight needles, but the project was done on circulars or double points, the guages can be radically different. Always make a guage swatch on the needles you intend to use.

Hope that helps

ronhuber's picture

I agree with Asplund. Take it off the needle after you have completed a couple of inches (run a long length of cotton yarn through the stitches) and measure the garment. Divide the number of stitches you have by the measurement and you will have a gauge. This is, in fact, the true gauge. It probably isn't too much different than you thought it was and you can adjust the size by increasing or decreasing a few stitches. However, if you are off by a large number it would be best to start over armed with the correct gauge.

MMario's picture

The general concensus among 90 knitters on retreat last weekend was "Swatches Lie!"

MMario - ambiguity is cultivated, it doesn't happen in a vacuum!

MMario - I'm not divorced from reality - we're having a trial separation

BuduR's picture

Hahahaha! so does my scales! there's no way I gained another 2 lbs! *hides the carrot cake and chocolate bars*

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